5 parameters to effective social media monitoring

Companies should not focus simply on accuracy of monitoring metrics, but figure out how to analyze data, use the insights, and engage with customers where possible.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Social media monitoring promises to serve a range of needs, from defensive purposes such as early warning for crisis management to day-to-day customer service engagement. However, many companies are still making fundamental mistakes ranging from not knowing which online channels to keep tabs on to not engaging customers in real-time, say industry watchers.

Benjamin Koe, CEO of social media monitoring company JamiQ, for one, pointed out that a common mistake brands make is assuming their customers do talk about them. When they deploy social media monitoring tools and come up with little to no data, their first instinct would be to wonder whether the tool they chose malfunctioned.

Oftentimes though, after investigations with Google, companies will find out that the last post mentioning them online was a few years' back, which is why the tool turned up with no data, Koe noted.

Companies tend to get too focused on the accuracy of the monitoring metrics rather than what they do with the information as well, noted Michael Wu, principal scientist of analytics at Lithium Technologies.

For instance, in terms of figuring out brand resonance among consumers, more positive or few negative conversations of one's brand would be a general benchmark. The accuracy of the actual metrics is relatively less important than what the brand does after they get the information, Wu explained.

As such, it is important for companies to establish clear parameters for social media monitoring in order to maximize their resources for such initiatives. Koe and Wu, together with other two other industry watchers, shared with ZDNet Asia what some of these parameters should be.

1. Align social monitoring with business objectives
Charlie Wood, area vice president of Salesforce Radian6 Asia-Pacific at Salesforce.com, said defining the right parameters plays an important role in maximizing insight on social media conversations. One of these is to ensure the social media monitoring strategy is aligned with the company's business objectives.

This can be achieved by identifying the business objectives then evaluate how social media can contribute to accomplishing these goals, Wood elaborated. "A business-aligned social media strategy helps to justify the business case for investing in the right social media monitoring and engagement tool that is critical to its success," he said.

2. Focus on consumers, not business
Companies should also set their parameters based around consumers, and not the company, advised Thomas Crampton, Asia-Pacific director of Social@Ogilvy at Ogilvy & Mather. He recounted how one of the advertising company's clients came to him with past reports that found no conversations relevant to the company due to them not having the right terms and expressions used by consumers when discussing its brand.

"We helped them build a library of terms and expressions that reflected how consumers discussed the company, allowing us to find a treasure trove of insights," Crampton said.

This was reiterated by JamiQ's Koe, who said brands often assume customers talk about them using their terms, but the reality is consumers very often use abbreviations, short forms, or even coining their own names.

"For example, the highly popular iPhone was called the 'Jesus Phone' by some because people waited with so much anticipation like it is was the second coming [of Christ]. Or frustrated customers calling telco SingTel 'Stinktel'. It is important to monitor the social media from the customer's point-of-view and not the brand," he stated.

3. Cover all conversation channels
As an extension of the point above, Koe added that picking the right keywords and in native languages would increase the effectiveness of social media monitoring. Like online search, the right keywords used will help direct the company to right conversation channels.

Pick the wrong keywords or going too broad, on the other hand, and it misses out on critical chatter or picks up too much noise, respectively, the CEO added. This applies to picking keywords in right language too, as the world is not flat and languages play a big part in various markets, he said.

Wood noted that a good social media monitoring strategy will have to start with companies identifying where online conversations are taking place, and by whom. The challenge, though, is the sheer amount of social media conversations generated daily is hard to manage without a proper platform to find and engage in discussions that matter most, he said.

Furthermore, companies tend to focus their monitoring efforts on limited social channels, which would lead them to overlooking important online interactions and conversations, the Salesforce executive said.

So companies will need to find tools that are able to tap a wide spectrum of online channels and sift through them to listen in and engage in the most relevant ones in real-time, he suggested, adding that Salesforce Radian6's technology allows organizations to achieve this.

4. Plan for customer engagement
Lithium's Wu also exhorted companies to not just monitor without having a plan to engage customers.

"Monitoring without action is worse than not listening at all. So companies must have a strategy in place that dictates how they act and react to the trending information or comparison data extracted from social media monitoring," he said.

To engage customers, it is important to have a collaboration strategy with their social customers, he noted. It is impossible for brands to hire enough employees to engage with all the conversations involving them, thus the only effective means for any organization to scale with social media is to crowdsource and enlist its most passionate customers for help.

One cost-effective way of doing this is to co-create a community with and for these customers so they can help curate and manage online conversations between the brand and other end-users, Wu suggested.

5. Defining metrics of success
The enterprise will also need to create metrics and key performance indicators of its social media strategy to track success against business objectives, advised Wood. If not, it will waste time pursuing after information that do not really matter, he warned.

For example, if the business goal is to increase customer satisfaction, the company should be looking to measure positive sentiment around the organization and its brands. To improve product quality, it should be measuring the number of product-related issues posted, he explained.

Calibrated right, an effective social media monitoring strategy will allow companies to avert a crisis, glean insights into consumers' behavior, and get instant answers regarding various business decisions and processes, Koe pointed out.

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